Advances in medical technologies have provided many people with the chance to live longer, healthier lives. Nonetheless, there are many documented disparities between racial and ethnic population causing health equity to remain elusive. Health disparities are differences in health outcomes that are linked to one’s social, economic and or environmental disadvantages. These disadvantages are often caused by social conditions in which one lives, learns, and works, and responds differently from other counterparts. Health care disparities are a societal burden that manifests itself in multiple ways. Lack of insurance negatively affects the quality of health care provided to minority individuals. Minorities are often members of cultural societies that place negative stigmas on certain illness, and for this reason many minorities do not seek help for certain medical issues. For example, mental illness has a very negative connotation among minorities. Mental illness is often labeled as a disease that attacks the weak minded. As a result, many minorities suffer from depression for years and years without proper treatment. Obesity is another illness that is often overlooked. Many minorities suffer from obesity as a result of cultural cooking. Most minorities have grown up eating certain types of foods that are prepared in unhealthy ways. They continue to eat these types of food their entire lives and as a result they suffer for obesity which can lead to high-blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, and strokes. Finally, many minorities lack the understanding and access to scientific knowledge and medical innovations because of cultural barriers. Minorities often have superstitions and home remedies for certain ailments. Often they feel that medical professionals do not know what is best for them. They are often times just very untrusting of medical professionals. As a result, if they do see a medical professional on a regular basis, they may still not take prescribed medicine out of fear that it will do more harm than good. Health care providers must promote a closer collaboration between staff and minorities, coordinate more effective investments in the research of the treatment of minorities, and facilitate public input and feedback from more minorities.
In efforts to promote a closer collaboration between staff and minorities, health care professionals should be required to learn about cultural aspects that may affect the quality of health care services accepted by minorities. For example, “Adding to the increasing evidence of cultural expectations, assumptions, and language as factors affecting the quality of care, Hispanic, and non- white healthcare providers should examine how interpersonal processes affect the health care that patients receive and the outcomes of their care.”(Blum, 1981 ) By increasing the availability and effectiveness of community based programs such as free health screenings and informational seminars, the gap in health care disparities can be bridged. For example, “Eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities is imperative as both a matter of fairness and economic common sense. This tremendous challenge can-and must-be met with a focused commitment of will, resources, and cooperation to make change happen” (Davis, R. Cook, D. Cohen, L., 2005 ). The implementation of a “Thrive Tool’ or community based program can help to target minority groups in efforts to improve the quality of life among ethnic minorities ( Davis, R. Cook, D. Cohen, L., 2005 ) .
Adequate communication is one important factor of effective health care services. It is important for healthcare providers to understand their patients’ health care needs; it is equally important for patients to understand healthcare providers’ diagnoses and treatment recommendations. “Communication barriers can relate to language, culture, and health literacy. For people with limited English proficiency, having language assistance is of particular importance. People with limited English proficiency may choose a usual source of care in part based on language concordance” (Brown, 2002). As a result of not having the ability to communicate with healthcare providers, many minorities are discouraged from establishing a usual source of care. Various entities ranging from local health departments and free clinics can prove very beneficial in helping to identify individuals with health disparities. Collaboration with these foundations can be established to conduct and evaluate pilot tests of health disparity. The use of these assessments has the potential to inform healthcare policy makers into adjusting policies. Consistent methods for collecting and reporting data is essential in the accurate depiction of health disparities among minority groups. The development and implementation of targeted population can be reached through research using grant funding. These patient centered outcomes will help to inform healthcare decisions by providing evidence on the effectiveness, benefits, and harms of different treatment options. (Brown, 2002 )
Lack of proper insurance coverage is a great determinant in the disparity of health care among minorities. According to Satcher, “Disparities in health care are often attributed to differences in income and access to insurance. Research has shown these to be important, but by no means the only factors. For instance, the proportion of Hispanic Americans with a usual source of care has declined substantially over the past decade (from 80 percent in 1986 to 70 percent in 1996)” (Satcher, 2000 ). Overall insurance coverage has declined in recent years, and the lack of insurance by some group members is growing by astounding numbers. For example, 37 percent of Hispanic men over the age of 25 have no health insurance. However, declines in insurance coverage can only account for one-fifth of the change in access to a usual source of care (Satcher, 2000).
Closing the gap will not be an easy task for health care professionals. Blum Says, “Improvements in preventive care, chronic care, and access to care have led to the elimination of disparities for some priority populations in areas such as mammograms, smoking cessation counseling, and appropriate timing of antibiotics” ( Blum, 1981 ). Despite constant efforts to decrease health disparities, ethnic disparities in health care have persisted for decades. Some minorities have adequate income, health insurance, and access to care, but are still reluctant to receive regular health care. As a result, infant mortality, life expectancy, and prevalence of chronic disease are more prevalent ethnic minority populations than their white counterparts. Collaboration between communities and healthcare professionals, better prepared health care provides, and cultural knowledge are the only ways to bridge healthcare disparities.
Blum, H L (1981). Social perspective on risk reduction. Community Health, 3(1), 50-62.
Brown, J.D. & Witherspoon, E.M. (2002). The mass media and American adolescents ‘health. . Adolescent Health, 31(6)153-170.
Davis, R. Cook, D. Cohen, L. (2005). A Community Resilience Approach to Reducing Ethnic and Racial Disparities in Health. American Journal of Public Health, 95, 2168-73
Satcher D. (2000). Eliminating racial and ethnic disparities in health: the role of the ten leading health indicators. National Med Association, 92, 315-3 18.